Best portable music players 2018: from budget to hi-res music

Whether you want to save memory and battery on your phone, or you're investing in a high-end PMP to double as a DAC, or just need your portable sound to be as good as it can, look no further.

We're rounded-up a number of portable players to choose from across a range of prices. You'll be surprised at what you can get for your money these days, but for those that want sound quality above all else we've got something in the list for you too.

Many of these portable music players use microSD memory cards, meaning your music collection need never stop growing. It also means you can keep all your audio at the highest quality possible without worrying about running out of space.

Check out the list of the best portable music players below to find the perfect one for you.

MORE: High-resolution audio: everything you need to know

Best portable music player under £250

Best portable music player under £250

Cowon Plenue D

Great sound without the cost.

SPECIFICATIONS

Storage: 128GB + mircoSD expandable | Screen size: 3.7-inch | Battery life: 8.5hr | Dimensions: 11.6 × 6.4 x 1.3 cm | Weight: 173g

Reasons to Buy
Punchy bass
Insightful midrange
Good tonal balance
Reasons to Avoid
Nothing of note at this price

Today's best Cowon Plenue D deals

?
WHATHIFI
WHATHIFI
£189
WHATHIFI
WHATHIFI
£199
WHATHIFI
WHATHIFI
£199

This is a really tough portable music player to fault. For your money you get a feature rich device capable of supporting 24bit/192kHz sample rates and FLAC, AIFF, ALAC, WAV, WMA and MP3 file formats. A 3.7-inch colour touchscreen, 32GB of storage (upgradeable to 128GB via microSD), 100-hour battery life and solid yet lightweight build quality all make this a premium product at a low price. The result is a detailed, sophisticated and well-defined sound. 

Best portable music player under £400

Best portable music player under £500

Astell & Kern AK Jr

An old-timer but still deeply impressive - and even more affordable.

SPECIFICATIONS

Storage: 64GB + mircoSD expandable | Screen size: 3.1-inch | Battery life: 5hr | Dimensions: 11.7 × 5.3 x 0.9 cm | Weight: 93g

Reasons to Buy
Tidy styling, fine build
Decent battery life
Proper volume levels
Reasons to Avoid
That tactile frame is a little pointy

Today's best Astell & Kern AK Jr deals

?
WHATHIFI
WHATHIFI
£249.90

If you want plenty of power then for pure volume alone the Jr is worth its price tag. Beyond raw juice there's also a premium feel to the slender unit which houses a Wolfson DAC with 24bit/192kHz support. There's also plenty of support for file formats including DSD, WAV, AIFF, FLAC, ALAC, APE, MP3, AAC, WMA, OGG. The result is immaculate timed, crisp bass and a wide-open, detail-heavy mid-range. 

Best portable music player under £750

Best portable music player under £750

(Image: © Astell & Kern)

Astell & Kern A&norma SR15

An all-rounder for DAC, pre-amp and quality sound

SPECIFICATIONS

Storage: 64GB + mircoSD expandable | Screen size: 3.3-inch | Battery life: 9hr | Dimensions: 9.9 × 5.7 x 1.6 cm | Weight: 154g

Reasons to Buy
Subtle and clear sound
Intuitive interface
DAC and preamp
Reasons to Avoid
Design may not appeal to all

The Astell & Kern A&norma SR15 may look a little less than normal but it suits this player's extraordinary spread of abilities. The player boasts an easy to use interface, stacks of storage and plenty of hi-res file support. The device can even be used as a DAC/preamp, allowing you to use it with your smartphone. Expect serious levels of detail and a dynamic sound that's synonymous with the brand.

Best portable music player under £1200

Best portable music player under £1200

Astell & Kern Kann

For those that don't mind spending a little more for the ultimate in high-res sound quality.

SPECIFICATIONS

Storage: 64GB + dualSD expandable | Screen size: 3.3-inch | Battery life: 14hr | Dimensions: 11.5 × 7.1 x 2.5 cm | Weight: 278g

Reasons to Buy
Good array of features
Superb detail
Strong, dynamic presentation
Reasons to Avoid
Design might not appeal to everyone

Today's best Astell & Kern Kann deals

?
WHATHIFI
WHATHIFI
£799
WHATHIFI
WHATHIFI
£799
WHATHIFI
WHATHIFI
£898.99
Low Stock
WHATHIFI
WHATHIFI
£899
Show More Deals

Arguably the ultimate high resolution portable music player under a grand, the Kann's solid build combines with impressive battery life and a long list of features. There are both unbalanced (3.5mm) and balanced (2.5mm) outputs. There's also aptX Bluetooth for wireless streaming at better-than-CD quality plus it can natively support 32bit/384kHz and DSD256 sample rates. You can expect layers of depth, detail and dynamism with real texture - it's such a talented machine you'll find it tough to put down.

MORE:

Black Friday hi-fi deals: The best DAC, CD player and music system deals right now

25 of the best tracks for testing bass